Although every applicant for U.S. residency submits their application through the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS), their journey is drastically different according to their visa status. Because international and foreign medical graduates have not received their medical education in the U.S., they are at an inherent disadvantage when compared to U.S. graduates. As a result, international and foreign graduates are more heavily scrutinized by Program Directors, and must work harder to land a spot in a U.S. residency program.
The residency bottleneck only adds to this issue. As a result of increasing applicants for a limited number of residency positions, more international and foreign graduates are left empty-handed at the end of each Match season. To make matters more complex, the Affordable Care Act resulted in an influx of people who will qualify for healthcare. Now, more citizens require care, and while there are a sufficient amount of medical graduates aiming to help, there are not enough residency spots to account for these increasing numbers.
“Without an increase in federal support to create more residency slots, we will not be able to avert the expected shortage of 90,000 physicians by 2020,” says Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The Census Bureau projects a 36% growth in the number of Americans over the age of 65, and as the aging and growing population requires higher amounts of healthcare, more doctors are needed to meet this demand. Furthermore, 1/3 of all doctors will retire in the next decade. This will directly affect rural and inner-city residents, areas which are already experiencing a health professional shortage. Educating doctors takes up to a decade, therefore graduate medical education must be expanded now.
So what is the solution?
An expansion of residency program positions would both allow more international and foreign graduates to pursue medicine in the U.S., and begin to work toward meeting the higher demand for healthcare. International and foreign graduates already possess the skills and qualifications necessary to save lives and alleviate the daunting doctor shortage. Additionally, these doctors are more willing to pick up specialties U.S. doctors are leaving behind, such as primary care. The untapped skills of these doctors should be utilized in the upcoming doctor shortage.
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